It’s a rare treat when you get to confront a person you’ve badmouthed for some time, isn’t it? Just think of James Reston Jr., the American journalist and author who was part of David Frost’s interview team. After years of slamming Nixon with his poison pen, and welcoming the opportunity to do a scathing interview, he got a chance to meet the man face to face. And wouldn’t you know it, he shook the man’s hand and called him “Mr. President”! Yes, somehow it’s hard to be mean to a man in person.
Well, as turns out I had the same opportunity opportunity recently; to speak to a man I’ve been criticizing for quite some time. I am referring, of course, to Kevin J Anderson. After reviewing the Brian Herbert/KJA Dune spinoffs on this site (quite poorly, I might add), I began a thread over at Goodreads dedicated to the Dune finale and what people thought of it. Opinions were mixed, the debate was somewhat heated. But then, one of the contributors, a fan of the new books, advised that I go on over to the Dune Saga site on Facebook to make my opinions known. Naturally, I was a little worried when I noticed KJA himself was the man in charge of this site, and I a little peaved when I noticed that my comments at Goodreads had already garnered some rather harsh criticisms from KJA fans.
Here’s a sample of what some of them said:
“It’s the usual crew that likes to bad mouth Brian and Kevin. I had a suspicion that the guy that started it was with them. One of his posts after they started showing up confirmed that.”
“I don’t even bother adding to these posts and go out of my way to ignore them on sites. These people don’t change and are limited in their ability to separate one writer from another. I wish they would stop reading Dune books or at the very least suffer from a head injury that would make them forget that Dune even existed. That way people that actually enjoy the continued story would not have to stumble upon their adolescent, mindless blabbering. THANK YOU KEVIN AND BRIAN FOR CONTINUING THE STORY FOR US!! I look forward to each new exciting installment of the Dune Saga. I would have been tragic if this story had stopped with Frank.”
“The Talifans return!”
Well, needless to say, I was taken aback and replied in kind. I mean really, Talifans! What nerve!:
“As the person who started that forum, I would like to ask, have you really read the arguments of how these books failed? Because I’ve noticed glaring inconsistencies between the old work and the new, ones that go far beyond “hating” and other things we are accused of. What’s more, I find it ironic for people to say that these are the “same old” complaints. Whenever I hear people defending the new books, its always the same. The “styles” are different, its his son, its bound to be different, but they had notes, etc.
And given the declining sales figures, I’d say its the McDune franchise thats likely to fade away soon.”
Guess who replied? The man himself! Here’s what he said:
“Sorry you don’t like the new books, Matt. The “glaring inconsistencies” the Talifan complain about have all been addressed in the novels, but they don’t–or don’t want to–read very carefully. The fact that they have not attacked the “glaring inconsistencies” in the original Frank Herbert books with the same vehemence seems a bit of a double standard.”
And of course, one of his fans jumped in with a somewhat harsher response:
“Amen Kevin. LOL…They had NOTES….HA…..I cant remember the last time I picked up a published notes at the book store. The notes still need to be fleshed out into stories regardless of what “notes” they may have had. Again since Frank did not write these stories, only provided a guideline, they will be different….you know…because they were not written by Frank…….. But thanks for posting more of the “same ol complaint” That you Trolls always state, notes , timeline, blah blah blah. We who have stuck by the Dune saga and have paid close attention to the story know exactly how each event falls into place. I do strongly encourage you to stop reading Dune books. But that is unlikely to happen because most of you Trolls just like something to constantly complain about. As far as the “McDune” franchise falling away, that is highly unlikely to happen thanks to a strong a loyal fan base. Trolls like you have been spewing that BS for YEARS and look 3 more books are on their way. Yeah the all those Dune New york Times best sellers that Brian and Kevin wrote failed horribly…. Again….I do strongly encourage you to stop reading Dune books, it seams your time would be better spent farming a vill or something.”
Well… needless to say, I felt I was being highly misrepresented. So I took it upon myself to explain what I meant by “inconsistencies” and to set the record straight on being a “troll”.
“First off, let me say thank you Mr. Anderson for responding yourself. I feel honored and in a unique position that I can speak to you directly. Let me first assure you that I didn’t dislike all your books. In fact, I thought that the Preludes series was alright, and I enjoyed Hunters, up until the ending that is. And that is what I mean by glaring inconsistencies. Let me illustrate:
First off, the fact the entire saga ended with the old man and woman being the evil robots from the Jihad. I couldn’t see how this could possibly be the result of Frank’s own notes. I mean really, the whole thing ends with characters from your own prequels? For one, they were clearly Face Dancers, as established by Frank in Chapterhouse. Here’s some evidence to that effect:
First, where Duncan recognizes them in one of his visions:
“That thought aroused Idaho’s suspicions because now he recognized the familiarity. They looked somewhat like Face Dancers, even to the pug noses … And if they were Face Dancers, they were not Scytale’s Face Dancers. Those two people behind the shimmering net belonged to no one but themselves.”
And at the end, where Daniel and Marty describe themselves:
“[Tleilaxu Masters] have such a hard time accepting that Face Dancers can be independent of them.” “I don’t see why. It’s a natural consequence. They gave us the power to absorb the memories and experiences of other people. Gather enough of those and…” “It’s personas we take, Marty.” “Whatever. The Masters should’ve known we would gather enough of them one day to make our own decisions about our own future.”
Clearly, they were Face Dancers. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Here’s William F. Touponce’s take on the ending, taken from his 1988 book entitled Frank Herbert:
“Herbert gives us a segment narrated from their point of view only at the very end of the novel. They are offshoots of the Tleilaxu Face Dancers sent out in the Scattering and have become almost godlike because of their capacity to assume the persona of whoever they kill — and they have been doing this for centuries, capturing Mentats and Tleilaxu Masters and whatever else they could assimilate, until now they play with whole planets and civilizations. They are weirdly benign when they first appear in the visions of Duncan Idaho as a calm elderly couple working in a flower garden, trying to capture him in their net…”
And finally, in an August 2007 review of Sandworms of Dune, John C. Snider of SciFiDimensions.com argued that it “doesn’t fit” or “add up” that Frank Herbert’s Daniel and Marty are the “malevolent” thinking machines Brian Herbert and Anderson created in their Legends of Dune prequel novels.
That was the glaring inconsistency I mentioned. Not plot holes or things not adding up in your own books. So for those who’ve already posted back and slammed by comment, I’d advice you understand what a person is saying first before you respond in kind.”
Now that I look at it, I notice I say “firstly” a lot. Not good. It looks unprofessional when you repeat yourself. And it looks unprofessional when you – okay, bad joke! Moving on! I was also sure to smack Greg back with a little “taking the high road” approach:
“And to Greg, you’re obvious disdain for us “trolls” notwithstanding, we’re fans like you and we’ve got opinions and points to make. You don’t like it fine, but I’m going to make it, and in the process show a lot more class than you’ve demonstrated thus far.”
All of this is a reiteration of what I said on Goodreads and in my review of Hunters of Dune. I of course left out the criticism of the Butlerian Jihad premise, seeing as how I was already not being brief. This, in turn, garnered some rather civilized comments from the man himself.
“And your own comments notwithstanding, you have to admit that the behavior of many of the “trolls” is vitriolic and insulting. I am not in the business of telling people which books they can or can’t read. If you don’t like the new Dune novels, I hope you’ll try my Seven Suns or some of my other books…or just read something else entirely. Don’t read all twelve of the new Dune books and keep railing about how much you hate them. For months now, the Talifan have been trashing SISTERHOOD OF DUNE, a book that none of them has read.”
Hmm, I notice he used the term “Talifan” too. Makes you wonder if he had a hand in creating it, or is just repeating what his own die-hards say. Either way, getting reamed by anyone isn’t easy so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here. Our conversation is ongoing at this point, with other salient issues being raised. In fact, one commenter, a highly civilized person who is a fan of the new books but has also been very polite to me, had a point to offer.
Here it is in its entirety:
“And since Kevin J. Anderson is here for the discussion, perhaps he can confirm or deny my theory I posted on the Goodreads site.
The theory broke down:
Item: Frank left next to nothing in notes for The Butlerian Jihad time which that trilogy was set in.
Item: Frank left a detailed outline for Dune 7 which was turned into two books upon fleshing it out.
Speculation: Brian and Kevin figured out from Frank’s notes on Dune 7 that certain characters were from the era of the Butlerian Jihad which they planned on writing a trilogy about.
Item: The Butlerian Jihad trilogy was published before the two Dune 7 novels were published.
Accusation: Brian and Kevin totally invented everything for The Butlerian Jihad, so therefore: They clearly inserted their own characters into the Dune 7 books.
My theory: It’s the opposite. They took what they could from the Dune 7 books in order to do better foreshadowing when they wrote The Butlerian Jihad trilogy. Therefore, not all characters in that trilogy were “made up” by Brian and Kevin even if they had to create the vast majority of the story involved to support the characters they had found in the notes of Dune 7.”
For non-fans of the Brian and KJA remakes, this is not a new theory. We’ve heard this one before, many times in fact! “The Butlerian Jihad was based on Franks notes, so it wasn’t unnatural for the series to end with characters form it.” This prompted me to reply to it by stating that this theory doesn’t add up. That’s when I posted my argument of how the Butlerian Jihad happened in the Legends series in a way that Frank couldn’t have intended, and how Brian and KJA said Frank left few notes on it so they made most of it up themselves, etc etc.
However, Kevin had this to say in response:
“David, your theory is very insightful. We had the Dune 7 outline from the time we started writing House Atreides and *always* had the final destination in mind; there are details in HOUSE CORRINO and throughout the Legends of Dune trilogy that we planted specifically to take the story and characters where we knew it was supposed to go in HUNTERS & SANDWORMS.”
His theory is insightful… I notice he’s not saying he’s right or wrong. If David had hit it on the head, I would think KJA would be the first to say so. He’s also saying how they “planted” things, but based on what – Frank’s notes, or their own inventions? In short, were they planting stuff for the sake of establishing ties between their own work and the ending ahead of time or was it something Frank left behind? You be the judge!
He also said the following to me about my proof:
“Again, thanks for giving the novels a chance, whether or not you liked all of them. Regarding your issues with Face Dancers and the remnants of the Butlerian Jihad, that was tied together in the books and detailed in Erasmus’s experiments to create the Face Dancers. It’s not my call whether or not you found the explanation or the resolution satisfying, but it’s not inconsistent with the series as a whole.”
Ties together huh?
Interesting, but again, can’t see how that’s what Frank had in mind. And I said as such. Saying Erasmus was experimenting with Face Dancers establishes a connection between Frank’s work and their ending, but does it not seem forced? Again, how could Frank have been planning on introducing robot characters in a final novel that made no appearance beforehand, were ever mentioned or even hinted at? Well, I said as much, and feel a little shmuckish at this point. I tell ya, its hard to say to someone’s face exactly what you think of their work. But as they say, “Nut up or shut up!” And remember, honesty and civility are not mutually exclusive.
I will no doubt have more to post on this as it unfolds. Needless to say, I’m just happy I get a chance to address this man directly, pose all my question directly to him. I mean, how often does someone get to do that? I want to see how he responds to these challenges, as I’m sure do many others!